Google’s Pixel smartphones have always been at the cutting edge of the use of machine learning and AI to deliver unique experiences, all by leveraging Google’s software expertise creating clever algorithms. The original Pixel was the first Android smartphone to feature Google Assistant while it was also the first smartphone more generally to feature AI-powered computational photography features like Lens Blur and Smartburst. Each successive phone built on this legacy and right through to the Pixel 5, Google had partnered with Qualcomm to use its Snapdragon chips to power these AI and ML experiences.
This changed with the launch of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in 2021, which was powered by the Google Tensor, its first customized chip. At the time, Google said its goal was to create its own chip so that it could “…deliver totally new capabilities for Pixel users by keeping pace with the latest advancements in ML.” The implication being, that if it had stuck with Qualcomm, it simply wouldn’t have been able to achieve its goals. Specifically:
Co-designing Google Tensor with Google Research gave us insight into where ML models are heading, not where they are today. This allowed us to build an AI/ML platform that could keep up with our work at Google.